4 Different Ways of Material Discharging by Bucket Elevator

4 Different Ways of Material Discharging by Bucket Elevator

Bucket elevators are a versatile and widely-used type of bulk material handling equipment, found in applications ranging from grain mills and cement plants to recycling facilities and mining operations. A critical function of any bucket elevator system is how the material is discharged from the buckets at the top of the elevator.

There are several different methods and configurations used for bucket elevator discharging, each with their own advantages, disadvantages, and best-fit applications. In this article, we’ll explore the most common bucket elevator discharge techniques and help you determine which one is the right choice for your material handling needs.

Standard Centrifugal Discharge
The most basic and widely-used bucket elevator discharging method is centrifugal discharge. As the loaded buckets reach the top pulley or sprocket, the centrifugal force generated by the elevator’s rotation causes the material to be flung out of the buckets and into a chute or hopper below.

Advantages of Centrifugal Discharge:

  • Simple, reliable, and low-maintenance design
  • Consistent, even distribution of discharged material
  • Handles a wide variety of dry, free-flowing bulk materials
  • Can achieve very high discharge rates and throughput capacities

Disadvantages of Centrifugal Discharge:

  • Not well-suited for fragile or cohesive materials that may break apart or clog
  • Potential for material spillage or dust generation during discharge
  • Requires adequate clearance and catch area below the discharge point

Controlled Discharge
To address some of the limitations of standard centrifugal discharge, controlled discharge systems use mechanical means to regulate and direct the discharge of material from the buckets. This is typically achieved through the use of a discharge gate, paddle, or similar mechanism.

Advantages of Controlled Discharge:

  • Improved control and containment of the discharged material
  • Reduced risk of spillage or dust generation
  • Better handling of fragile, sticky, or cohesive materials
  • Can discharge directly into a chute or enclosed conveyor system

Disadvantages of Controlled Discharge:

  • More complex, higher-maintenance mechanism compared to centrifugal discharge
  • Slightly lower maximum discharge rates and throughput capacity
  • May require additional downstream equipment like screw conveyors or air slides

Continuous Discharge
Rather than discharging the material in batches as the buckets reach the top, continuous discharge bucket elevators are designed to steadily and evenly release the material as it’s being lifted. This is typically achieved through a linear discharge chute or port that runs the full height of the elevator.

Advantages of Continuous Discharge:

  • Extremely gentle, low-impact material handling
  • Ideal for delicate, fragile, or cohesive products
  • Consistent, regulated flow of discharged material
  • Can directly feed downstream processes or equipment

Disadvantages of Continuous Discharge:

  • More complex and costly elevator design and construction
  • Lower maximum throughput capacity than batch discharge
  • Potential for material buildup or blockages in the discharge chute

Reversing Discharge
In some applications, it may be advantageous to have the ability to reverse the direction of discharge, either to clear a blockage, change the flow of material, or handle complex multi-stream processing requirements. Reversing discharge bucket elevators are equipped with a bi-directional discharge mechanism.

Advantages of Reversing Discharge:

  • Provides operational flexibility and redundancy
  • Enables clearing of material jams or blockages
  • Can switch between different discharge locations or processes
  • Useful for applications with variable or unpredictable material flow

Disadvantages of Reversing Discharge:

  • More complex and higher-maintenance discharge system
  • Potential for increased material degradation or dust generation
  • May require additional downstream equipment like diverter valves

Selecting the Right Bucket Elevator Discharge Method

When choosing the optimal discharge configuration for your bucket elevator, there are several key factors to consider:

Material Characteristics
The physical properties of the bulk material being handled – such as density, particle size, cohesiveness, and friability – will heavily influence the best discharge approach. Fragile, sticky, or cohesive materials generally perform better with controlled or continuous discharge methods.

Downstream Process Integration
The discharge method you choose should align well with the requirements and configurations of any downstream equipment or processes the material is being fed into, such as conveyors, silos, or process vessels.

Space and Layout Constraints
The physical layout and available space around the bucket elevator’s discharge point can also impact the optimal discharge design. Centrifugal discharge requires more clearance, while controlled or continuous discharge allows for more compact, integrated layouts.

Maintenance and Reliability
The relative simplicity and robustness of centrifugal discharge makes it generally the most reliable and low-maintenance option. Controlled and reversing discharge systems have more moving parts that require closer attention.


Finding he best bucket elevator discharge method comes down to finding the right balance between material handling performance, throughput capacity, system complexity, and operational requirements for your specific application. Testing and evaluating different discharge configurations with your actual bulk materials is the surest way to make the optimal choice.

Contact Us for Your Conveyor Parts Solutions